Once a dream and a strong sense of purpose takes hold of you it rarely let’s go as architect Mariam Kamara knows all too well. Becoming an architect improving the spaces in which the people of Niger (her home country) lived was dream Mariam had as a child. Facing opposition from well-meaning family, as an adult, Mariam ended up studying software engineering and spent seven years working for big companies and start-ups. Yet the dream to make a difference remained. Finally embracing it she returned to university to study architecture. Having already been down the route of working for others Mariam returned to Niger to set up her own architectural and research practice Atelier Masōmī in 2014. Now an award-winning studio whose name translates to mean ‘the inception’, for Mariam a starting point towards thoughtful design investigations.
Through Atelier Masōmī Mariam works on a variety of projects ranging from public, cultural, residential, commercial to urban design. Standing firm on her belief that architects have an important role in creating spaces that have have a positive impact on the lives of the communities in which they are designed for Mariam is developing innovative solutions in architecture, exploring and adapting local materials and techniques. Part of this belief includes looking to her history and heritage for guidance in producing buildings that sympathetic to the surroundings and societal needs in which they exist. She encourages Africa’s architects to do the same and stop copying the western designs. Of which the structures and materials used are often ill-suited to the demands of Africa’s social and climatic conditions, and expensive to produce.
I studied the architectural history of Niger in depth, getting to know the types of buildings that existed before western colonisation and the subsequent introduction of structures and materials ill-suited to the demands of the social, economic and climatic condition of Niger’s population.
Mariam Kamara, principal architect, Atelier Masōmī, Niger
Having familiarised herself with Niger architectural history Mariam has developed a signature style of using locally made bricks with little cement as this is ideal for repelling the intense heat and keeping the interior spaces cool and importantly can be done a low cost. Her designs also seek to address gender equality in what is a predominantly Muslim country by factoring in the needs of women and how they interact with buildings in a social context, for example incorporating covered walkways that connect different buildings.
[I want] to give the people of Niger a sense of identity and pride through architecture.
– Mariam Kamara, principal architect, Atelier Masōmī
Winner of the 2018-2019 Rolex Protégé in Architecture award has seen Mariam being mentored by Sir David Adjaye, the renowned British-Ghanian architect. The pair are working on project designing a public cultural space in Niamey, Niger’s capital.
The continent desperately needs to redesign its cities… A journey to which I am now honoured to contribute. As a woman and, above all, as an architect.
– Mariam Kamara, principal architect, Atelier Masōmī, Niger
To find out more about Mariam Kamara and Atelier Masōmī visit: www.ateliermasomi.com
[Image credits: The images shown belong to Atelier Masōmī. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]